The Constitution of India was not originally a printed document, it was handcrafted by the artist Nandalal Bose and calligrapher Prem Behari Narain Raizada. The finished manuscript was 251 pages long and weighed 3.75 kg and is now preserved in a special helium-filled case in the Library of the Parliament of India.

The members of the Constituent Assembly wanted the Constitution to depict India’s heritage and commissioned Nandalal Bose to illustrate it. As a young artist, Bose was a disciple of Abanindranath Tagore who was impressed by his emulations of works by master artists. During this time, Bose portrayed Indian subjects through a unique style that was deeply influenced by Ajanta murals, European and pan-Asian techniques. He graduated from the Government School of Art, Calcutta in 1910. In 1919, he accepted Rabindranath Tagore’s invitation to become the president of the newly established Kala Bhavan at the Visvabharati University in Santiniketan.

To work on the Constitution's art,  Bose enlisted the help of his students at the Kala Bhavan. Together, they painstakingly decorated every page of the Constitution with intricate frames around the text.

Image Credits: World Digital Library

The front and back covers are made of black leather embossed with complex patterns in gold.  Each of the 22 parts of the Constitution begins with a depiction of some aspect of India’s 4000-year history. The first part has the Indus Valley seal, a zebu bull, indicating the most powerful clan of Harappa or Mohenjodaro. The great Hindu epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata make an appearance: Rama, Laxmana and Sita adorn the Fundamental Rights and the Directive Principles of State Policy contains an image of the iconic conversation between Arjuna and Krishna before the start of the war.

Image Credits: World Digital Library

Buddha finds his way into the chapter on the President and Vice President. India’s struggle for freedom is shown through a black and white figure of Gandhi holding a stick during the Dandi March (one of Bose’s best-known works) to Rani Lakshmi Bai and Tipu Sultan.

Bose's work on the Indian Constitution reflected the changing environment, people and places in modern India’s cultural development. In light of his contributions to Indian art, was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1953.

Find the digital copy of the original Constitution here.

(Sampada S. Venkatesh, an intern studying 11th grade in NPS Indiranagar, authored this piece)